IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Suspect charged in 'horrific' killing of California woman found in tree in homeless encampment

The body of a 20-year-old woman with autism was found hanging from a tree near Sacramento, authorities said.

Prosecutors in Sacramento County, California, filed charges in the killing of a woman with autism whose partly nude body was found hanging from a tree in a homeless encampment after she was kidnapped and raped, according to documents obtained Monday by NBC News.

Mikilo Morgan Rawls, 37, was charged with murder with special circumstances — including kidnapping, rape and sodomy — in the slaying of Emma Roark, 20, authorities said.

Emma Roark.
Emma Roark.Rancho Cordova Police Department

“The circumstances of this murder are horrific, and our sympathies go out to Emma Roark’s family,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said in a statement.

Roark was last seen by her family around 11:30 a.m. Jan. 27. Two days later, a man who bought Roark’s cellphone told investigators that Rawls sold him the device and told him not to say where he got it, according to an arrest warrant.

In an interview with police, Rawls denied seeing or knowing Roark, according to the warrant. He told police he bought the phone from someone else.

Authorities found Roark's body on Feb. 1 about a half-mile from her family's home northwest of downtown Sacramento, near a place where she often walked along the American River, the warrant says.

Roark's remains were under a series of tarps near the riverbank, in an area authorities described as a homeless encampment. Her body had been bound with rope and raised toward tree branches, the warrant says.

An autopsy showed that she had been strangled, and DNA evidence from the scene and Roark's body matched Rawls, according to the warrant.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Rawls has a lawyer. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court.